Growing up in a small city in the north, I felt stuck between two communities that narrowly identified their members. If I wanted to be accepted by the Asian community, I had to alter my opinions and if I wanted to fit in with the English community; I had to change my appearance. I wasn’t ready to do either. If I socialised with one group, I hid the other half of my personality that fraternised with the enemy. Enemy is used very loosely here; only referring to an opposing group of people that tied their identity to another group. I tried to keep these identities separated as one tries to separate the mind and soul. My English friends described me as quirky; an innuendo for my inability to fully integrate into their culture and my Asian friends instinctively understood that I was different to them. They sensed it in my inability to regurgitate similar stances on issues and my reluctance to mimic behaviour. Naturally I was attracted to the oddballs, the fiercely passionate and peculiar. These individuals were used to being othered because they too didn’t neatly fit into packages. They didn’t even try to pretend into the majority.
Moving between towns to cities and across borders to countries, place-to-place, I have retained my alliance with these unusual bunch. I found strength in my existence as the perpetual outsider. A mixed identity meant that I could find some mutual connection and relate to people easily. I wasn’t put off by any quirks or differences.
Then, finally, I ended up in London.
Where 37% of the population is born outside the UK. Where over 200 hundred languages are spoken. London, which is twice the size of Singapore. Where you can explore the world with your stomach. Where there is a place for everyone. London which can sometimes feel like the loneliest place on earth.
Of course, the city should not be over-romanticised. Like other places, it has preferences and prejudices which suits some over others. People may not stop to talk to you. This is because the city is more dangerous than towns and so we have to be careful before we can trust people. The good thing about the city is how easy it is to find a niche, talent, tribe. Finding people is quite hard. Many people leave the city after a few years only to be replaced by new people. It feels a little disposable but it’s where people from across the world genuinely live peacefully alongside each other. The city is tolerant. It’s the birth of new ideas and trends. So much fashion and music is made in this city. It’s where seemingly opposing culture are able to fuse. It’s where people look to the future rather than to it’s past glories.
Here’s to London and whatever its future holds.